Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Criticism of Kevin Myers's Comments on Africa

I would like to talk about a recent piece by Kevin Myers titled Africa is Not Giving Anything to Anyone -- Apart From AIDS. It was published in the Irish Independent.

I myself give a considerable amount of money to the starving and I'm sure most of that money goes to Africa. Myers however refuses to give money. He says, "It is nearly 25 years since Ethiopia's (and Bob Geldof's) famous Feed The World campaign, and in that time Ethiopia's population has grown from 33.5 million to 78 million today. So why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country?"

The idea here is that the Ethiopians are breeding too much. Given that there is limited food, creating more mouths to feed means each individual gets less food. However, this ignores the reality that in many poor countries there are no institutions set up to give welfare to people. As a result, poor people must breed in order to increase the size of their family and therefore increase the strength and stability of their lives. In many poor countries it is tradition that individual take care of their parents in old age. Thus producing children is a way of providing yourself a pension.

Since most poor people live agricultural lifestyles rather than urban lifestyles, producing more children gives more labor, which in turn can produce more food.

Myers also forgets to demarcate between government and citizens. He says, "Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us, yet again." Myers is assuming that because Africans are not intent on civilizing then people in rich countries should help Africans become more civilized by feeding them. Many African governments may not be keen on civilizing Zimbabwe, but the collection plate is being passed around by many organizations that have nothing to do with African governments, e.g. NGOs like World Vision, Care International, and Oxfam, and furthermore, these NGOs are helping African citizens, not African governments. Myers believes that because African governments are guilty then therefore the African people are guilty as well. To use this argument on Germans during World War II, it is like saying that because Nazi Germany has a poor history on human rights that it would be wrong for American soldiers to try liberate Jewish victims of the Holocaust who were German citizens.

Myers's comments are the end are especially horrific:

[Poverty in Africa] is inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.

If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what? I know. Let them all come here. Yes, that's an idea.

Myers is saying that malaria needs to work it course because it kills people and killing people is good because the world is overpopulated. Many people want Africans to die and they often use the environmental argument. To test whether they really do care about the environment versus whether they simply hate Africans, you apply the same policies to non-Africans. If Myers wants the poor to fend for themselves against diseases, he must want to same thing for non-Africans (e.g. Europeans), which means that he believes infections in Ireland should run their course and kill children. He would necessarily believe that a European child who is disabled and cannot work to feed himself must be left to die.

The fact that at the end Myers suggests that bringing Africans into Ireland is a bad idea backs up my suspicion that Myers hate these Africans not because of environmental degradation (that is likely just an excuse). Rather, he hates them because they are African.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

To be honest, I never heard of Kevin Myers until I read his distasteful article about Africans. I agree with you that he might be writing it to seek attention.

Well, here is a reply to his article from an Ethipian American blogger entitled ” The Wrath of the Irish Man” A response to Kevin Myers - The Leprechaun.

Mr Myers, the obvious thing to do to an article like yours would have been to give a well thought out response in hopes of getting a productive dialogue started. But I don’t think your article was designed for such things. No, I think it has a different purpose. I mean I can try and explain as to why the West is mostly responsible for the horrible situations that are happening in Africa today or every other continent for that matter and how it goes as far back as the days of Western colonialism and Slavery. I can also talk about the hypocrisy of the West and how it still exploits the rest of the world through fancily named organizations like “The World Bank”, IMF, WTO etcetera. The hypocrisy was never more evident than at the recent G8 Summit where Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, urged the rest of the world to” not waste food” as he and the rest of the leaders gorged on an 18 course meal . But of course, you already have the pre-canned standard answer, “Why is it’s always the West’s fault?’ or ‘stop blaming others for your own failures’. No, I think there is more to your bile diatribe than just meets the stomach.

Read the rest of the response at